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  • Biasutti, M., I.M. Held, A.H. Sobel, and A. Giannini, 2008: SST forcings of Sahel rainfall variability in simulations of the 20th and 21st centuries.. Journal of Climate, 21, 3471--3486, DOI: 10.1175/2007JCLI1896.1.

The outlook for Sahel precipitation in coupled simulations of the 21st century is very uncertain, with different models disagreeing even on the sign of the trends. Such disagreement is especially surprising in light of the robust response of the same coupled models to the 20th century forcings.

We present a statistical analysis of the pre-industrial, 20th century and 21st century A1B scenario simulations among the latest Coupled Model Intercomparison Project dataset (CMIP3). We show that the relationship that links Sahel rainfall anomalies to tropical sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies at interannual time scales in observations is reproduced by most models, independently of the change in the basic state as the world warms.

The same SST/Sahel relationship can be used to predict the simulated 20th century changes in Sahel rainfall from each model's simulation of changes in Indo-Pacific SST and Atlantic SST meridional gradient, although the prediction overestimates the simulated trends. Conversely, such a relationship does not explain the rainfall trend in the 21st century in a majority of models. These results are consistent with there being, in most models, a substantial direct positive effect of atmospheric greenhouse gases on Sahel rainfall, not mediated through SST.

Last Updated: 2009-03-13

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